Mesenteric ischemia

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  • Most commonly SMA, thus typically involves small bowel (especially jejunum) and right colon
  • Left colon uncommonly involved due to collateral flow


4 distinct entities:

  1. Mesenteric arterial embolism (ex. Afib)
  2. Mesenteric arterial thrombosis (ex. Vasculopath)
  3. Nonocclusive mesenteric ischemia (ex. Hypovolemia from diuretics)
  4. Mesenteric venous thrombosis (ex. hypercoagulable state)
Risk Factors for Mesenteric Ischemia Types
Type Risk Factor
Arterial Embolism
  • Dysrhythmia (A. Fib)
  • Valve Disease
  • MI
Arterial Thrombosis
  • Atherosclerotic Disease
Venous Thrombosis
  • Prior thrombosis history
  • Hypercoagulable state (preg, cancer, clotting disorder)


  • Mean age: 70yo
  • 2/3 women

Risk Factors

Clinical Features

  • Pain out of proportion to exam. Abdomen often soft, without guarding.
    • Pain often left sided around watershed areas of colon (splenic flexure and recto-sigmoid junction)
  • Severe, generalized, colicky
  • Bloody stools

Differential Diagnosis


Diffuse Abdominal pain


  • Labs
    • Lactate (higher later)
    • WBC (often >15K)
    • Chemistry (metabolic acidosis)
    • Hyperphosphatemia
  • Upright or left lateral decub XR with intraabdominal air
  • CTA
  • Mesenteric angiography considered gold standard


Acute arterial embolus

  • Papaverine infusion (30-60mg/h IV) OR
  • surgical embolectomy OR
  • intra-arterial thrombolysis

Nonocclusive mesenteric ischemia

  • Papaverine infusion

Mesenteric venous thrombosis

  • Heparin/warfarin either alone or in combination with surgery
  • Immediate heparinization should be started even when surgical intervention is indicated
    • Decreases progression of thrombosis and improves survival

Chronic mesenteric ischemia

  • Angioplasty with or without stent placement or surgical revascularization


  • Admit with consultation of one or more of the following
    • IR
    • Vascular
    • Surgery

See Also

External Links


  1. Acute mesenteric ischemia. Curr Gastroenterol Rep 2008;10:341